These dark mornings, Mr A often finds me pottering about the house in the dark. “Why don’t you turn on the light?” he says. I shrug, but of course he can’t see me. “I like the dark.” In the safety and familiarity of my home, I prefer to wait for the natural light to seep in gradually through the windows, rather than with a sudden burst of artificial light. Of course, it’s never completely dark in a town with a streetlight at the end of the garden and, if I’m at the computer, it emits light of its own. But, within these wishy-washy constraints, I cling on to what passes for darkness as long as I can.
When my darkness finds a readership, a light is turned on in my heart. If I can get you to examine the murk while resisting the urge to clean it, I’ve done what I set out to do. So it’s been a fabulous year for me, with the publication of my debut novel and of the lovely Twitter feedback at #SugarandSnails and reviews reflecting that connection back to me. For many readers, Sugar and Snails isn’t actually a dark novel, but one of hope, and that’s fine with me. (There’s even a fair bit of humour to be found within it if you gel with my style.) But I wrote it from my personal darkness, and I’ve enjoyed illuminating discussions this past couple of weeks with the visitors to Sherri Matthews’ Summerhouse exploring what that might mean.
With the excitement of publishing my novel, my short fiction – apart from the weekly flash fiction challenge – has taken a backseat, so it’s time to put that right. Today is National Short Story Day and how fitting to choose the shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere) to celebrate the pleasures of storytelling. As of last Friday, I have 64 published short stories (excluding the 99-word flashes) on 44 different platforms (some, sadly, now defunct). I’ve arranged them into themed virtual annethologies, which actually includes seven classed as uplifting and upbeat.
In the spirit of end-of-year reflection, however, I want to flag the eight published this year and to thank the various editors for showing confidence in my words. One is available only in print, but you can read about “The Witch’s Funeral” on the Open Pen website. (This is probably the most optimistic of all these stories and, yes, it’s about a funeral – you have been warned!)
Better move on, before I get too upbeat (although, as my bio states, I do relish the freedom to contradict myself), to the latest Carrot Ranch challenge to write a 99-word story on spreading the light. And, of course, mine is in honour of National Short Story Day; if the light is too blinding, pop back on Christmas Eve for a couple of ghostly reviews!
And so it seemed. She was unmoved by massage, music or aromatherapy, indifferent to extremes of heat and cold.
The storyteller hunkered down beside her. “Once upon a time, in a faraway land …”
She continued to sit, statuesque, her eyes glazed, like a doll’s.
“… a cruel king kept his daughter in a gilded cage.”
They all heard it. A sigh from the depths of her being. They all witnessed the light flicker in her eyes. “Go on,” they said. “What happened to the girl?”